Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy by William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis, eds.

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)Title: Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser

Author: William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis, eds.

Pages: 218

Source: Publisher

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

Summary (From back of book):

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has fascinated children and adults alike for generations. Why does Lewis Carroll introduce us to such oddities as a blue caterpillar who smokes a hookah, a cat whose grin remains after its head has faded away, and a White Queen who lives backward and remembers forward? Is it all just nonsense? Was Carroll under the influence? This book probes the deeper underlying meaning in the Alice books and reveals a world rich with philosophical life lessons. Tapping into some of the greatest philosophical minds that ever lived -- Aristotle, Hume, Hobbes, and Nietzsche -- Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy explores life's ultimate questions through the eyes of perhaps the most endearing heroine in all of literature.

My Two Cents:

I'm a big fan of scholarly books that look at some of the most beloved stories and series in popular culture. I practically lived with another publisher's Lord of the Rings and Philosophy while working on a thesis my senior year in college. I love that there are other people in the world who think deeply about the books and movies and TV shows which others take as pure entertainment.

So, when I was asked to review this book, I jumped at the chance. I love Alice in Wonderland and have often thought about how Carroll, an Oxford don and logician, turned his own scholarly work into a children's story more complex than it often seems.

There are a lot of interesting points made in this book. My favorite chapter was "Nuclear Strategists in Wonderland" by Ron Hirschbein, in which the author explores how those who worked toward building the United States' arms cache during the Cold War used euphemism, jargon and faulty logic -- all of which are found in Wonderland -- to justify their actions.

One thing that kind of bothered me, though, was that it seemed as if there were chapters that just repeated one another. There were a couple of essays which used the same quotes from the Alice books and the same philosophers' theories to prove basically the same point. I think this would have been a stronger book overall if some of the essays were cut out and others extended.

I really did enjoy looking at the Alice stories in some new ways and think that anyone who is a fan of them and has ever wondered, "Are these just stories of nonsense?" would like this book, as well.

This series also has several other titles, many of which interested me, including South Park and Philosophy and Terminator and Philosophy.


Hannah Stoneham said...

this sounds very interesting, I used to love "Alice" when I was a little girl.
thanks for sharing

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